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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I told you guys the other day about doing a new construction stain job and today I found out the builder may use poplar. Poplar is not a good stain grade wood, he mentioned pine too. Wouldn't pine be much better and shouldn't I steer him to pine?? Poplar sucks for staining doesn't it?

I swear, staining/sealing has missed my generation of painters...it's a thing of the past.
 

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Staining isn't my thing, I generally pass that work along to another contractor who is set up and far better at it than me.
My view on staining is that changing the color of one species of wood to look like another is a waste of time and effort as the grain is the give away of what wood it is.
What is the look that the customer wants? If customer wants the look of oak then they have to use oak and just put a clear sealer on it.
I think trying to make pine or poplar look like oak never works.
Just my thoughts.
I must admit the price of hardwood lumber is out of sight.
 

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Maple for light stains, alder for dark down here, although maple can be stained dark and alder light. Or red or white oak.
 

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Not much cheaper than Oak around here.
Fir and or hemlock and paint grade fingerjoint pine or ultra lite
No one even stocks much oak.
 

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If your finisher knows what he is doing, poplar stains fine. Our supplier stains poplar trim and doors frequently. Now darker stains for sure look better, browns or reds. Pine stains like crap and is soft for trim. In my area it's oak, poplar, and maple for stained trim/doors. Sometimes birch doors...
 

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If your finisher knows what he is doing, poplar stains fine. Our supplier stains poplar trim and doors frequently. Now darker stains for sure look better, browns or reds. Pine stains like crap and is soft for trim. In my area it's oak, poplar, and maple for stained trim/doors. Sometimes birch doors...
The key is knowing what you're doing with poplar. Stain & toning can make poplar look pretty sweet. Also select poplar without a lot of the green streaks in it.
 

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Poplar can look great when sorted per stain darkness level. Even a light stain can look like a good match to maple on a white polar board.

What tone of stain are you needing to do?

Poplar works great on a redish tone like antique cherry, or a redish walnut and such, even redish med tones work over a little green. Lighter colors require sorting, which on your one project probably won't happen.

If it's a lighter color stain, soft maple is not much more expensive than poplar, & way cheaper than hard/rock maple. It is often used by cab manuf on cab framework, with the doors/dwawer fronts being hard maple, & is pretty much undetectable. It's natural color is not quite as consistent as hard maple, but is way more consistently light than poplar. Lengths can be more of a problem with soft maple than with poplar though, & will probably end up with a higher waste factor.

Joe
 

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(as said above) If you use pine, hit it with some watered-down sanding sealer (50/50?) before stain. It really helps minimize the blotching.
 

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On pine, a good alkyd base, or even linseed base will go on even without pre-sealing. You just have to test the stain before you start staining the project. Stains can be all pigment, all dye, or any combination of both. The mix of the two has a huge impact on how even they go on. On light tone stains, adding some white pigment to the mix goes a long way toward evening out the application.
 

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Almost all of the new construction around here gets stained poplar trim. It looks fine and is much more affordable than oak. Oak has been done 1,000 times over, IMO people are ready for something different to change it up. Poplar is it right now around here.

+1 A good finisher can make poplar look just fine.

I would never use pine. That stuff dents if you look at it wrong. Poplar is harder.
 

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Hemlock looks gorgeous, but not readily available in this neck of the woods. It also tends to blow up when molded from what I remember.
Joe
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I don't know, you all are killing me.lol. I told him to go with fir or pine...if I did have him go with poplar, most of you guys are saying to use a lighter stain and prewash the wood?? Damn, that seems like a lot of work but I'm making 6 grand and it's only 1340 sq. foot. I think money wise, I hit a home run for my neck of the woods.
 

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If your finisher knows what he is doing, poplar stains fine. Our supplier stains poplar trim and doors frequently. Now darker stains for sure look better, browns or reds. Pine stains like crap and is soft for trim. In my area it's oak, poplar, and maple for stained trim/doors. Sometimes birch doors...
I agree with this statement 100%. I have stained poplar just screwing around and found it can stain quite well.

I don't know if you have a spray gun, but you could pre-stain the trim with it...

This is prob a little off topic...but hey why not, if your interested in stains and experiments keep reading...otherwise skip

....I was messing around in the shop yesterday and took Sherwin Williams WoodClassics wood stains, thinned it way down with Naphtha and sprayed it on in light dusting coats. Wood Classics is their consumer grade oil stain. It is a pigment in a thinned varnish, I think,...I do not think its pigment in Linseed Oil (which I think is what Min-Wax is). The WoodClassic line of stains dry hard and with a satin to semi-gloss sheen if left on the surface (look at dried spills around the can). Min-Wax tends to stay gooey and dull.
In fact WoodClassics dry hard enough the sand. I know this from spraying white stain on some rough sawn boxes I built for my friends wedding. I built 10 boxes and by the time I was done spraying the stain on, the surface of my spray cart had a THICK layer of the stain....I let it dry to see what would happen. I don't remember the time frame but at some point, (days?) I took a sander to it...and it sanded...well, didn't corn the sand paper. It also appears to have great adhesion...

Now all that was interesting to me b/c Minwax and many other oil wiping stains say you cannot do what I did as it will not dry and top coats will not adhere....but the WoodClassics dried and was sandable...and stuck to the cart very well....so now I got the idea of making it a spray stain to make the application faster, easier and more even.

So here is what I did yesterday.

Took the stain, poured a few oz in a cup, added naphtha in approximately a 1:4 ratio. One part stain, 4 parts naphtha..
Loaded said stain into an HVLP spray gun.
Turned the air pressure way down...about 15 psi entering the gun.
Turned the fluid knob way down to limit the amount of stain coming down to just a dust coat.
Took some curly maple out of the off cut bin, sanded it to 150 grit.
Dusted on coats of stain about 30 seconds apart, each coat force dried with a heat gun just because I didn't feel like watching it dry.
I did NOT wipe the stain off.

This was the first sample, it would be the "Bright Cherry" color... I think it came out very even, the minor dark spots (besides where the grain figure is) would be where the stain is still wet.




Next test I mixed up some dye stain. The dye stain was golden brown TransTint diluted in water. I wiped it on. Let it dry for a few min, sprayed a coat of shellac over it and then shot the "bright cherry" stain ontop of that....I meant to dust it on, but I messed up and loaded it on there...so I wiped it back off and came up with this.

The left side is with the oil stain, the right side shows only the dye stain. Notice the ground color established by the dye stain changed the final color ALOT.


After messing with that I thought I would see if I could replicate the color samples they show you in the store...you know the ones that are NEVER accurate.
Here is what I came up with.

This is "Modern Mahogany" thinned and sprayed on maple...that is it, nothing special, I top coated it with Shellac just to put a coat of finish in it.


This is "Fruit Wood"


This is "Armiore Hickory"


Not bad....color wise. I think they are off due the fact that the samples are shown on kinda a pinkish "birch", where the maple is white. Some of the spottiness it due to the force dry with the heat gun, it was boiling(I think) the stain out of the pores and recesses, you could see it bubbling up....

What I guess I am ultimately getting at is I was shocked to see the evenness of the stain on the first board...and then the semi-close color matches to the store samples I could get with out any thought...just buy the can and spray it on. I tried wiping on and off the same colors...no where near as even or deep. This might be a good process for staining poplar. The pigment stain also tends to "obscure" the grain and color variations as you "paint" it on there, which would help to even out colors differences and hide imperfections in lower grade materials....

Just for hell of it I might take some maple, dye it to match the "bare birch" in the color samples a try again, along with some more proper dry times so I can also test the adhesion of topcoats.

As a disclaimer, I am no expert here, I just read alot of forums and finishing books along with alot of messing around trying things. I am self teaching myself, mostly focusing on water-borne finishes, but I use the oil wiping stains for their longer open time, availability and low cost as I learn . I also would have to say I think this would would even better with the commercial grade stains such as the BAC and Sherwood lines, but they are in a store about 40 min from me and I don't have any on hand.
 
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